Totally F***ed Up
1993 Directed by Gregg Araki. Starring James Duval, Roko Belic, Susan Behshid, Jenee Gill, Gilbert Luna, Lance May, Alan Boyce.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Nov. 4, 1994
The ordinary struggle of adolescence is bad enough, but if you're a gay or lesbian teenager, life's growing pains ache even more. In Totally F***ed Up -- a phrase used by one despondent character to describe himself -- the six teenagers living in Los Angeles are isolated from the rest of the world, seemingly disengaged from everything, both as a function of their age and sexual identity. Refreshingly, there's little angst about being queer -- these young men and women aren't wringing their hands about who they are, the way most of us did years ago. Rather, the emotional baggage associated with being gay or lesbian comes in the form of gay-bashing homophobes, parents rejecting their kids for being gay, and the sexual transience that often marks gay relationships. Araki's directorial style is post-Godardian, using title cards and grainy, black-and-white interviews to counterpoint the vignettes documenting the trials and tribulations of this group of friends. Pointedly funny at times, Totally F***ed Up is often a politically reactionary piece of filmmaking that occasionally tells the straight, heterosexual establishment just where to put it. (A diatribe by one of the lesbian characters about how the stupid people of the world keep reproducing, while the cool people don't, is absolutely priceless.) Araki's self-described “guerrilla” style of filmmaking has just the right edge here, yet is polished enough not to distract. In this respect, Totally F***ed Up is a much better film than Araki's last effort, The Living End. Although the teenaged ennui in the film sometimes comes off as hip nihilism, there's no question that the pain and turmoil depicted is anything but heartfelt. In particular, the short-lived but sexy romance involving Andy, who's so lonely it hurts (a great understated performance by Duval), gets under your skin in a way you don't quite expect it to. With Araki and a handful of other filmmakers making independent films like Totally F***ed Up, there's little question that the Queer New Wave hasn't ebbed.